A darkly intimate exploration of the psycho-physical processes of mortality.

Photo by VJZoo

The first time I saw a Casus Circus show was at the Woodford Folk Festival, where the four performers who make up the company performed their current touring show, Knee Deep. The show was captivating – driven by a deep intimacy and fragility I had never seen in a circus show before. The relationship between the four performers almost negated the audience, which only served to draw us in more deeply. Immediately after Fringe World, the company will be touring New York, after completing shows in Paris and around France through December and early January.

For Perth Fringe World, Casus is premiering their first solo piece, Jerk, performed by Emma Serjeant and directed by John Britton, artistic director for Duende Ensemble. In it, the central character is involved in an accident. The show narrates her disorientation as she attempts to piece together who she is and what happened to her, expressed through intense and highly skilled physical theatre. It is a darkly intimate exploration of the psychological processes of mortality, held tightly in check by the direction of Britton, who specialises in psycho-physical theatre.

Interestingly, Britton’s Duende Ensemble is closely focused on ensemble theatre, based on the principle of working to serve the group. This philosophy embraces the idea of serving the art form, rather than the individual artists, with an eye to the development of skills in an ensemble environment. Presumably, then, the piece was developed with the aid of a group. This would make sense, as rarely does the show suffer from the loneliness of a solo piece – it’s reasonably self-contained and doesn’t require the reference point of another performer to make sense. That said, there are repetitive elements and soft spots that could do with some fleshing out.

The story is structured around Serjeant’s skills, and as such the piece is physically astonishing. Serjeant is phenomenally strong and acutely skilled, and her focus on sheer movement is unwavering. At one point in Jerk, she is delivering lines while supporting her entire vertical bodyweight on two hands. Ever tried speaking while doing push-ups?

As Jerk is an introspective piece, it can be very mood-dependent and, in many ways, somewhat inaccessible. Where one viewer might see subtly in repetition, for example, another may simply see banal repetition. What might be dull for someone, might easily induce tears for someone else. At times, the narrative is weakly constructed, with some clunky writing and unnecessary padding. In addition, the character is underdeveloped – her details told prosaically to us, rather than shown, which is a missed opportunity considering the nature of the show. These flaws tend to be amplified by the technical perfection of the physical show, however, and overall Jerk is a stunning and powerful piece of physical theatre. It will be exciting to see where the company takes it in the future.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5


Performed by Emma Serjeant
Directed by John Britton
De Parel Spiegeltent
The Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
Fringe World
31 January-3 February

Zoe Barron

Monday 3 February, 2014

About the author

Zoe Barron is a writer, editor and student nurse living in Fremantle, WA.